Streamlined with Squaw Valley? Grassroots group forms to protect Alpine Meadows’ identity, character | SierraSun.com
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Streamlined with Squaw Valley? Grassroots group forms to protect Alpine Meadows’ identity, character

Margaret Moran
mmoran@sierrasun.com
A snowboarder takes in the view of Lake Tahoe from the slopes of Alpine Meadows.
Courtesy Trevor Clark |

OLYMPIC VALLEY, Calif. — A group of locals is speaking out against the management of Alpine Meadows amid recent changes to the resort’s branding and perceptions that its identity is fading away.

On Dec. 22, the grassroots group Friends of Alpine Meadows (FOAM) officially announced its movement to preserve the identity, character and culture of the ski area that merged four years ago with neighboring Squaw Valley.

“We have become increasingly concerned about the future of our favorite ski area,” FOAM steering committee member Ozzy Simpson said. “But instead of just complaining about it, we felt it was time to assemble a group to voice our concerns.”

In 2011, KSL Capital Partners, which owns Squaw Valley, acquired Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, then owned by JMA Ventures, in a much-anticipated deal that effectively combined two of the most heralded ski resorts in the West.

“Alpine Meadows is a fabulous mountain with a great history, and we are completely aligned with maintaining its identity, character and culture.”
Cara Whitley
CMO, Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows

Since, both resorts have operated under the umbrella of the company Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, of which KSL is majority owner.

At the time of the merger, current president and CEO of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, Andy Wirth, said Alpine will retain its character under a unified vision and leadership.

“Now we’re seeing that character being chipped away, and it’s a cause of concern,” said Shanda Kenyon, a FOAM steering committee member. “… We feel like we’re being streamlined with Squaw.”

Examples of this, according to the group, include Squaw’s decision to rebrand the area as one resort — Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows — prior to the 2014-15 season, and the subsequent elimination of the Alpine Meadows logo and its website (both resorts now operate under squawalpine.com).

‘NOT ABOUT MAKING ALPINE SQUAW’

Cara Whitley, chief marketing officer at Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, said the separate Alpine and Squaw websites and logos were combined for consistency and equal representation for each mountain.

“It’s absolutely not about making Alpine Squaw,” she said. “Alpine Meadows is a fabulous mountain with a great history, and we are completely aligned with maintaining its identity, character and culture.”

On the combined website, launched in September 2014, Whitley said both mountains’ “unique attributes” are featured.

“We want customers to understand that they are different mountains and experiences, with different terrain and atmosphere,” she said. “That you got options, and you can tailor that experience.”

On the ‘Discover Squaw Alpine’ page under the ‘Explore’ tab, Alpine Meadows is described as, “A true local’s favorite, Alpine Meadows is known for (its) down-home feel and approachable hospitality, all of which keep Alpine Meadows true to (its) roots and mean the skiing and riding experience always comes first.”

Meanwhile, Squaw Valley is described as: “… widely known as one of North America’s most renowned ski resorts, with a legacy of ski culture and mountain energy dating back to the 1960 Winter Olympics, and a spirit of adventure that has driven professional freeskiers to call it home.”

Under each description, there is a “learn more” button, providing additional information ranging from trail classification to user testimonials.

“We couldn’t agree more (with FOAM). The character, culture and identity is what Alpine stands for, and we are aligned in wanting to maintain it,” said Whitley, adding that it was those qualities that attracted KSL to purchase Alpine Meadows.

COLLECTING COMMUNITY INPUT

Among its goals, FOAM wants the return of a separate ticket and pass option for Alpine Meadows to allow for increased affordability, according to its website.

On that note, the group also wants to “bring back affordable kids programs to keep local families engaged with the sport, and their home mountain of Alpine Meadows. This includes separate teams, a return of the ‘local’s program,’ as well as cheaper kids tickets and lessons.”

Further, it aims to ensure Alpine Meadows locals and longtime patrons voices are heard by management.

In an effort to get a pulse on how the community views Alpine Meadows and potential concerns, the group recently launched an online survey.

As of Monday, 400 surveys have been completed, Kenyon said. No survey deadline has been determined.

“We want to take the community’s input and present that to … management in a positive way,” Kenyon said.

While KSL purchased Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley Ski Holdings runs and makes decisions for the resort, Whitley said.

When asked what future plans there are for Alpine Meadows, she said the concept of connecting Alpine and Squaw together remains a key goal.

At this time, there is no timeline for when that will occur, Whitley said.

In July, Wirth told the Sun he expects the resorts to be connected “in the near future.”

“I can’t divulge how exactly,” he said. “We think that’s beneficial to literally every single person in this community. At the very least, it pulls cars off the road; at the very most, it makes us a more popular destination.”


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